The Green Bay Packers allowed the NFL trade deadline to pass Tuesday afternoon without making any moves, reportedly discussing a trade with the Houston Texans for Will Fuller V but failing to reach an agreement on a few conditions.
Let’s just say not everyone is thrilled about it.
While fans quickly lamented the inactivity on social media (and even in our own DMs), ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky laid into the Packers with a particular focus on the decision making of general manager Brian Gutekunst. Some of his frustration stemmed from reports earlier in the day that there were disagreements within the Packers’ organization about the value of making a trade, presumedly between Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur.
Here’s what Orlovsky said on NFL Live following the 3 p.m. CT deadline:
“There’s really only two reasons (not to trade),” Orlovsky said. “One, if you’re the general manager, you either think that you can’t win the Super Bowl this year, you either think that your team cannot win the Super Bowl this year or you think that you’re closer than you really are. Because there’s no way that Brian Gutekunst, their general manager, watches the same tape that I watch, that you guys watch, that everybody watches and goes, ‘That’s a Super Bowl-contending football team.’
There’s no way that you can do that and look at the defense and go, ‘That defense is good enough to get a stop when we need them to get a stop.’ Especially against teams, when playoff football comes into play, and they will very specifically will attack you. So that’s my only reasoning to understand it.”
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Orlovsky Calls for Trust in LaFleur
Orlovsky didn’t just interpret the Packers’ inactivity as one of two bad choices for the team. He also took the “disagreement” report from ESPN’s Dianna Russini as a sign that Gutekunst wasn’t listening to what the person most plugged into the team was saying about their needs.
“You know who knows the football team better than anybody? The coach,” Orlovsky continued. “The general manager doesn’t know the football team as well as the coach. The coach is in those meetings, every single day watching tape on their team, every single day watching their practice and grinding. And so if the coach takes a really, really, really good team and says, ‘I need this one piece. I need this one piece to be bona fide Super Bowl contenders’ You know what you do? You get it done and figure it out later. You figure it out in 2021 when you’re holding a Lombardi trophy.”
Gutekunst Remains Locked on Development, Future
The idea might sound nice, especially with the clock ticking on Aaron Rodgers’ time in Green Bay, but Gutekunst has other, more long-term decisions to consider about the teams’ future.
The Packers and the rest of the NFL’s teams are forced to reassess how they do business this year due to what is expected to be a significant decline in the 2021 NFL salary cap as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams will all be forced to make some room in the budgets just to accommodate the change, which means expect some Packers with large cap numbers (ex: Preston Smith, Dean Lowry, Rick Wagner, Christian Kirksey) to get cut loose this offseason.
Gutekunst has mostly resisted making reactionary moves to shore up short-term needs. He didn’t overreact to the departures of middle linebacker Blake Martinez or right tackle Bryan Bulaga and secured some bargain veterans to attempt to fill their holes. He also ignored clamor for the Packers to draft a top wide receiver or linebacker in 2020, investing heavily in the future with a first-round quarterback, second-round running back and third-round tight end.
However valuable those moves will be in the future, they aren’t paying off much for the Packers in 2020: Kirksey has missed more games than he has played through the first eight weeks; Wide receiver Devin Funchess opted out due to the COVID-19 pandemic; None of their top three drafted rookies will play in Week 9.
The Packers have also struggled to get consistency from their wide receivers behind Davante Adams ever since Allen Lazard was placed on injured reserve in Week 4. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has been unable to fill the No. 2 role while the trio of Malik Taylor, Equanimeous St. Brown and Darrius Shepherd are sporadically involved at best.
With the Packers at 5-2 and more than half the season left ahead of them, only time will tell whether Gutekunst’s latest moment of passivity was the appropriate call.